(Warning: I'm a big big nerd. Go team n3rd!)
A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I majored in French at FSU in order to be a French teacher. I then taught French for one year, during which I continuously talked and taught about food. I had worked lots of restaurant and catering jobs during my college days. After that one year of teaching, I decided: ‘Okay Julia Child, I am ready to get this party started!’ I then started up a little itty-bitty catering company with my dear friend Jackson Peel called Bacon & Bakin’ Catering and Cakery. He was the BACON half, and I was the BAKIN’ half. We had the pleasure of catering and cake-r-ing several of our dear friends’ weddings, which was wonderful.
I was then talked into moving 1,000 miles north by a dear old friend to work for a huge food company in Buffalo New York. While working there, I saw a lot of food being thrown away, and a lot of people – even employees – being refused food. This broke my heart. I quit, and started to think about what I am actually supposed to be doing with my life.
Dear friend Cathy Reily-Goddard had lunch with me one day, and brought a printed out copy of an article she had read. She introduced me to the concept of a Community Café. She told me that although it kept saying “Jon Bon Jovi”, she kept thinking it said “Mandy Bailey.” ...Tee-hee.
This was a life-changing day for me. Lots and lots of pictures of my life came through my mind: from my childhood through my catering days, seeing someone’s facial expression change to happiness after tasting a bite of my food gave me great profound pleasure. Despite the long list of life challenges, seeing that memory of someone taking a bite, closing their eyes and saying “mmmmm” has always brought me a profound smile.
I then started googling around about Community Cafés. There were several of them around the US, thanks to the founder of One World Everybody Eats, Denise Cerreta.
At that time, she'd invited people who wanted to start one to directly contact her. She and I started talking via email and phone, starting to figure out what could happen in Buffalo. I had already been good friends with several great people running/working for nonprofits here in the city. This one, that one, the other one had a board meetings about potentially starting up one of these cafés. One of them sponsored me to have the great pleasure of going to Denver Colorado, where there were already two cafés, one in the city and one in the suburbs. I spent a great several days volunteering here and there, writing down what I learned from that great trip. I was crashing with a great One World Everybody Eats intern, who herself was studying up on this concept. It was a great week.
Walking into the airport on the way there, I had been easily carrying my duffel bag. Shuffling around in the airports on the way back, however, it was a little difficult to carry my bag. I didn’t know why. Then, after getting home and journaling about my great experiences, I “suddenly“ upon waking up was not able to get out of bed, or even scoot over. My husband tells me that it was a little more gradual than that, but in my memory it seems like it just happened overnight. My silly brain decided that my nervous system was the bad guy, and so it started fighting it really hard. Therefore, of course, life stopped being all about starting up a Community Café and was all about health stuff. I had to take some time to figure things out and find a new “normal.”
Despite all of this, I feel that this is still what I am meant to do. I love feeding people, and that’s what I want to do with my life for the rest of my life. Let’s do this, y’all! Let's get this party started!
Bon appétit, y'all!
-Mandy Bailey, Founding Chef